Turnaround

“​Isn’t this a remarkable and beautiful moment in our history?  Slowly, by fits and starts, we are beginning to wake up to the suffering we’ve caused ourselves and each other.  We are starting to walk out of our separate isolation cells of fear and shame.  The Great Turning is calling us back to the solidarity we yearn for and need if we are to survive.”

– the big-pictured optimist Joanna Macy

Composition VII by Wassily Kandinsky

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These Days

These days they feel like a gulch.

Like a ruined breathdead space in-between

The hard sucking back of the ocean and the

Bursting forth, the breaking through, the

On-rush of the wild, woolly, rolling crash of a

New wave.

Julian Water Waves by Riverfox1 CC3.0-non-comm-no-derivs

The Mystery of the Traffic Jam

The Exeter Uni creators of a 2007 mathematical model constructed to determine how modern traffic somehow snarls itself right down into a jam claim they have the answer why. The reason, it appears, is me.

Well, not me personally. At least, not all of the bloody jams. I mean, I hardly drive at all these days. But it could be someone like me – someone whose nervous system is a little over-reactionary, or someone who’s having a vague morning or afternoon.

This is the second indication I’ve had in recent years that the way I drive is sometimes suboptimal. It wasn’t until, after observing the terrifying way my partner merges onto the highway and questioning him about it, that I realised that his way makes absolute sense, and is far safer. You don’t meander your way up to the end of the merging lane and then pick up speed so that you’re doing the speed limit a few seconds after you’ve hit the highway. No. You build up on the merging lane itself, so that you’re bursting onto that highway at maximum speed, straightaway. 

What a terrifying proposal. You mean, I need to be merging into a bunch of cars at 100 k and expect them to let me in? Yes, that’s exactly what you’re meant to do. And it’s far easier, and safer, to do it at maximum speed rather than 10 ks under.

Yikes. That means trusting your fellow road occupants are going to be accommodating. That’s not always a thing to be credited in Melbourne traffic.

It all makes perfect sense though. I mean, I’ve played Frogger. I didn’t listen in maths in high school, for sure, but I’m not a total dick about the physics and mathematics of the world in which I live. It just didn’t quite compute up until then.

See? The world is always designing ways for us to keep our humility in check.

It’s like when a boyfriend I had as a 19 year old pointed out to me that as you’re coming up to the type of traffic-lighted intersection that allows you to turn left without needing to stop at the lights, if you look at what the traffic lights are doing in the other direction, you can get an accurate idea of how much you need to slow down before you turn left, if at all.

Perfectly sensible. Makes for smoother driving. It just hadn’t occurred to me, up until then.

And so as if I wasn’t enough of a dumbass, now I find that I may indeed have been the cause of a traffic jam in the past. It seems all it takes is for one person to slow down and brake unnecessarily hard in response to, say, a lorry changing lanes, and an automotive butterfly effect spills its way back down the road until eventually – voila, a traffic jam.

Seems like I might be a prime candidate for a driverless car. I’d prefer an on-standby chauffeur but the three-book deal scenario hasn’t eventuated yet.

This is my entry in WordPress’s Daily Post. Today’s prompt theme is mystery.

Pic by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos – CC-by-NC not public domain, see link.


Writing Without Deleting

I have lost the will to write without deleting.

I first wrote “I have lost the will to write” but that’s not true. The spirit is willing but the flesh is chronic illness-weak. It is extremely frustrating to know from experience what happens when you write every day, how much that primes the pump so that you’re surprised at the strength and clarity of the water that ends up coming out, but to not be able to do so.

But added to that is an extra roadblock. It’s the knowledge that the stopper has been unloosed and the digital genie has come out and wow, look at the hubris out there! Look at how people comment, all brazen like, about shit that they absolutely don’t know enough about to comment on. But don’t let that stop you, morons. Let your delusion continue, the one that says your limited, narrow view is the entirety of the situation.

The world will end with a whimper, smothered under the opinions of terrified people’s ego-bloat. It will become so heavy that it’ll spill us off our orbit and we’ll smash into the moon.

I have lost the will to write without deleting because the people who cannot contain their terror and rage are winning. I don’t have a safe space to write in anymore. I feel like all that terror and rage follows me into every corner, into my own mind. It’s irrational, for sure. But I am sick and broke and surrounded by a bunch of fellow Australians who are fine with the Australian Government’s treatment of our refugees, who break everything down to economics, who believe every dose of fearmongering the government sees fit to grant them.

I am so tired right now and I hate the way some university students think that exploring ideas is dangerous enough that they need safe spaces in their universities. Fuck. Ideas are the safest thing of all to me. Safer by far than the people who haven’t entertained the ones about common humanity, about people who have been divided by the rich maybe not continuing to weaken themselves by demonising everything that’s not their tribes.

Or the idea about people learning how to own their own shit instead of scapegoating other people. 

Or the idea about the world’s problems being so complex and intertwined and not easily solved. About those problems not being intractable either. 

There’s nothing scary about ideas, only the dim everyday dull fear of people who don’t even know how to work with them in the first place, or to realise that their terror, which comes from living on top of a metaphoric volcano, is legitimate. That they should acknowledge how scared they are. How scared everybody is. How every person on the planet shares the same 99.99% of DNA and has the same jaggery, shuddering nervous system as they.

I’ve Never Been To You

Well, here you are, once again, in my head, Charlene. The most awful song of all time, I’ve Never Been To Me, regularly earworms its way into my sanity. Today, I’ve been exploring its dearth of economic and societal logic.

Like, it’s like you’re saying, in your stupid dress, hey, I’ve spent my life gallivanting around the world rooting royalty and living on yachts. And you, you’re a discontented mother and wife. But you shouldn’t be, because at least you’ve been to you and your partner and kids. You’re real. You connect with people. Whereas I’ve never been to me.

Well, that’s your fucking problem, Charlene. You’ve had ample time for psychotherapy and whilst not having children or a loving relationship is a grieving, you could adopt or try, try again.

You don’t want to because you’re scared of intimacy? Okay. That’s the real issue. But where do you get off using discontented mothers/wives as your comparison point? Like, as if your stupid poncing around in a castle helps them. You think because you’re some rich woman who can’t connect that this changes the issues around how they’re expected to raise well-adjusted kids without a village? You think your alienation in paradise makes them cope better with being unable to pay the electricity bill?

That’s dumb. Because mothers are overworked and they would be less discontented if they too were free to ponce around on yachts regularlty. But I bet while you were exploring the genitalia of politicians you didnt explore societal deas that might free us all, did you? No. Because your kind needs our kind to continue your parasitical lifestyle. 

Well, fuck you, Charlene. You and your jetsetting lifestyle as the daughter of a vulture fund manager. Go to hell with your schmaltz. your song makes me sick.

https://youtu.be/ZrIqsFSjqso


Point-of-View Stab

What fragile peeps we are, when seen from a social media perspective. It’s almost like we are the kinds of people who mistake our point of view for our whole selves. And when someone else gives their point of view? Well, I feel like you’re attacking me simply by having your own point of view because you’re threatening my existence. I’ll take you down, bitch.

Actually, it’s exactly like that. Being just a big point-of-view means that we are unable to put ourselves into another’s shoes but must defend our own turf. Even though we are actually capable of putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes even if we don’t share their viewpoint. At the very least we might see something new from their perspective. At the very least it may possibly stop us from indulging in the currently fashionable habit of just hating someone else’s guts for daring to not be exactly like us. From their perspective we can see better how they came to occupy the space that they do. It really does help to be able to resist launching your three minutes of hate onto that unknown idiot in the comments section if you have some understanding of where they’re coming from.

Being just a big-point-of-view means that all the things in you that are squishy and bleed when you poke them are even more exposed because if you are your point-of-view, then you are stuck, frozen in place. You are never allowed to change into something a little more comfortable, or nuanced, or complex, something that may help those squishy, bleeding bits live safer within you while you get to be a little more gracious to other people with massive squishy, bleedy insides. Because if you change your point of view, then you might just disappear!

If you are your point of view, you are stuck in some half-form of yourself that is not big enough to accommodate you (and because you live in a time of dumbassery and destruction, that half-formed bit will be a bit shit, probably. Not because you’re shit but because your society is. It will not reflect the you in there who has ideas you haven’t even formed yet, and parts that yet sleep, and parts not even yet formed).

We are so fragile because it’s us that we yearn for. The us that Tatcher insisted wasn’t even there. The us that was privatised. We are so flimsy partly because our society has been pulled out from under us by corporations. We have lost the us, the village that it takes to raise the child. The village that doesn’t require you to hustle. That is why we are exposed.

If we are to turn aside to make a new version of living (we can do this, there are solutions and history everywhere) we need to stop this idea that everyone needs to be just like me, as enlightened as me, as understanding of the importance of tradition as me, as together as me, as ficked up as me, as rich as me, as smart as me, as down to earth as me, as sensitive as me.

We need to stop being so enraged when we look into someone else and are terrified when we are not reflected back to ourselves.

That kind of shit can only happen in a society that is good, not nasty. Whose people are together, not shards. One that knows the worth of its people so that they know the worth of each other. 

We expect that shit from people who are as broken as ourselves. It can’t work that way. It’s way too early for that kind of wholeness.

In the Public Interest

It is Budget Eve here in Australia. Definitely not as exciting as Christmas Eve. Now, if you are poor, you won’t be slapped around the face tomorrow to the extent you were with the traumatising Hockey budget a few years back, but any presents you do receive will be located under the Bad Debt tree, just so you know to drag your tail of shame between your legs on your way there for daring to not be a power-unto-yourself in a crumbly society. 

It is a oddity that even if you know that a social safety net is a more than reasonable way to keep a society running well, and even if you disgree with the austerity of neoliberalism, and even if you violently disagree that social safety nets belong in the bad debts column, it still stings to hear one more person with far more power than you say that it is evil. Every time you’re reminded that elected governments who are tasked with managing our money – our money – have such breathtaking levels of callous disregard, it hurts. And that’s after they’ve cleaned themselves off a little bit from the neoliberal jizzfest 9f recent years.

Politicians are really just one more example though of how fragmented we are, of how disastrous and dangerous our dealings with each other become when we are so exploded into the pieces of our own alienation that we cannot see the most basic fact of our existence – our dependence on each other, the fact that  strengthening the most struggling people in our society makes us feel safer too, benefits us ourselves too, in ways that can never be demonstrated on even the most sophisticated spreadsheet, nor be reflected in our GDP.

Remember you are worth more than your economic standing, when ScoMo infers that you are a drain, with your disgusting lack of profitability, your chugging at the public Bad Debt teat. There is very little left now of the kind of rhetoric that went on in Joe Hockey’s infamous budget, but I’m not so sure the ideology has changed. It is still the same old crap that is the only way that capitalism makes moral sense – that everything that happens to you is by your own hand. You deserve whatever you get. That is the way you must necessarily be seen by any government which functions first and foremost in service to the global economy.

However, it was not the economy that the OECD declared to be ‘the mission of government and public institutions.‘ The fundamental reason for the existence for all of our governments, for our schools, our police forces, our hospitals, for the Department of Treasury, for Scott Morrison’s position, is not the economy. These institutions do not exist in order to increase Australia’s GDP, to keep our AAA credit rating, to rump up our country’s exports. 

No. The fundamental mission for it all, as stated by the OECD, is the public interest. It’s us.

‘Us’ is a concept that many of us barely remember. It is a funny thing, like a tardis, bigger on the inside than on its outside view. The public interest is not just the totality of all of us, with our indiviual interests, preferences, paradigms and beliefs. It is, as the cliché goes, bigger than the sum of its parts. ‘Us’ is a space which gives strength, comfort and identity and it does it, strangely enough, within the very fact of our differences. Unity in diversity. What so often seems to be a fragmentation of indiviual factions and lobbying groups in the economic sense is a cohesive whole in this higher overview, big enough to encompass paradoxes and polarised elements.  

The concept of ‘us’ is one we need to nourish because it is the space from where we get our collective identity. It goes beyond race, gender and class, but it enables true incusiveness.

A strong ‘us’ will be able, at some future point, to stand against a global world economy that is holding us all at knifepoint.  The need for drastic reform is dire – absolute ground floor issues such as the problems a debt-based economy causes, the way we are forever chasing our tails in order to pay back the money owed by borrowing it in the first place, which leads to an always-expanding economy, which must grow and grow like a cancer in order for us not to collapse under it’s own dumb stupid weight.

Of course, we are already being crushed by this dumb, bloated, stupid but relentlnessly complex and convoluted financial pustule. Despite its complexity, it’s a stupid plot, one which is killing its own story.

Debts must be paid! We must rein in the deficit! And according to many we must, and to others we can’t and shouldn’t, and I don’t have a clue about that except that it feels dangerous to be so indebted to the richest people on the planet. The political right is more likely to point out the bloody bulbousness of the size of the thing, while the left points out that a country cannot be run like a household budget. And anyway, can any country govern without being in debt when the financial system upon which it depends actually causes things to be that way?

A strong public interest would look at a situation like debt from the broadest, most telephoto-lens view possible. Who must pay the debt? Is it necessary that the debt be paid at all? Who is most able to pay the debt? 

Of course, the idea that anyone other than the incurrer of a debt should be the one to pay it is an anathemic one that we balk at. It pokes at our sense of pride. And yet our government has not balked at the idea of trying to get the poorest to bear far more than their share of the weight in the quest to reduce the debt flab. It isn’t an idea beyond the realms of possibility to them that the poorest should get shafted the most. 

What is in the public interest is that the richest should bear their share of the weight to start with. And then more again. If someone is going to have to pay, it should be the ones with the most toys. The fact that this will feel an undue imposition on rich people is another story, one that has to do with the fact that too much money is never enough to fill the hole that spurts and splutters in the middle of us all. That is an issue for them to deal with.

Or how’s this for a win/win situation then? Cancel the debt entirely. A worldwide jubilee, a debt cancellation by those who can most afford to wipe them – the banks. The ones who record quarterly profits in the millions and billions worldwide.

What would the banks’ profits be if they cancelled country’s debt? Who knows? But whatever it is it would, again, not be enough. It would never, ever be enough. 

The concept of debt cancellation is not such an uncommon one. The Old Testament details the requirement to every seven years cancel all debts owed.  A return back to zero. That’s some hardcore balancing of the books, and while such a concept seems foreign to us, impossible even, the inequality gap has widened enough that what once seemed radical now makes a whole lot of sense.

Of course, the IMF wouldn’t think that was such a great idea. It has for years sought to enslave third-world countries by offering them rescue packages that saved them in the short term but ensured that they would be tied in debt forever. There it is again, the taking from the poorest to line the pockets of the rich. We don’t need to be reminded of the levels of individual greed. They are gargantuan, never more than in a time when society is crumbling, when the public interest is at its lowest and misanthropy at its highest.

All this talk of jubilee is just pie in the sky hippie ayahausca-swill, right? Irresponsible. In the current economic capitalistic paradigm it’s more than that, it’s disgusting. If you are the digital economic blip that the corporatocracy insists that you are, it’s speaking beyond what you understand of what is possible in finance. And for you personally, as homo economicus, it is speaking above your station. 

But when you look at something like debt cancellation, or of a zero-growth economy, or of currency being pegged to environmental health, or demurrage, through the eyes of the public interest, it’s really not such a crazy idea at all. It’s actually quite attractive. That’s the thing about looking through the lens of ‘us’ – all sorts of new and refreshing and human- and earth-honouring ways of doing it differently open up. It can be quite the heady brew, drinking to future possibilities. That which serves the public interest and strengthens us, that which honours our lives as more than homo economicus, has been taken from us piece by piece by piece. Piece by piece is the same way it will be threaded back together again.